Couchsurfing is a huge trend right now. It’s an easy way to meet new people and discover a city from the eyes of a local person. More and more people use it to get a new travel experience. Sadly there are always some who misuse it.
I had my share of couchsurfers staying with me and did some couchsurfing myself. Over the time I had some pretty interesting encounters.
Some were great and fun, others a bit strange and some horrible. The last ones just don’t have to be.
It would be so easy and relaxed if everybody just would follow some common sense rules.
This is why I decided to write down my top 10 list of rules, which will make every host happy and will help you to stay in their mind as the nice guy/girl they would love to host again.
Here we go : 10 Golden Rules for Couchsurfers
1. Always say Thank You
That’s the most important to be kept in good memory. This simple words are the best present you can give your host. It shows them that you valued the time and effort they spent on you.
There is a stranger who shares their home with you, without expecting anything.
You don’t need any presents for your host, (even if it is a nice gesture, I sometimes take small things like chocolate, a wine or a souvenir with me when I go surfing) a thank you is enough. If you are not sure if you already said thanks, say it again! At least write a message when you arrive home, if you forgot to say it.
Don’t take everything for granted, even if it wasn’t luxurious and not how you expected, you still had a place to sleep.
2. Read the profile before you ask for a place to sleep
Nothing is more annoying, then people asking if they could stay with a friend, even if you stated clearly that there is no space for more than one person. Even more annoying are copy and paste messages, with the wrong name.
Please at least pretend that you care a bit about your host. If you don’t, you won’t get a place to stay at. Every host is an individual person.
Couchsurfing isn’t about finding a place to crash for free. It’s about meeting other people, you think are interesting or you want to know more about. It’s about sharing an experience.
If you have total different outlooks on things and are not open-minded enough, it will most likely be a rather tense stay. Pick people you want to meet. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Couchsurfing is not a Hotel stay
It’s not fair to your host. There are always expectations, f.e. all the rooms are overbooked and you are in a grave situation. In these situations I am sure some will gladly help you out.
But just to stay with somebody, because you don’t want to pay 20 bucks, will make your hosts feel like you are taking advantage of them. That is not what couchsurfing is meant to be.
4. Don’t expect things
This is closely connected to rule three. Depending on your host they will offer you breakfast, but if your host doesn’t eat breakfast,
he/she probably won’t go and buy something just for you.
Also not everybody has WiFi, maybe they will let you use their phone as a hotspot, maybe they won’t, depending on the mobile plan they’re having. You are a big girl or boy and out there are tons of Internet Cafe’s,
it’s not their job to have everything just ready for you to use.
But I am sure your host will tell you some great places to eat or a place were you can go into the Internet or where to find WiFi.
Like I said before, it’s not a Hotel stay, you don’t have a guarantee that certain things are there at your service.
They share their lifestyle with you, you have to accept how they live, don’t make them feel bad, just because you have another lifestyle.
5. Ask before you use their stuff
Rule number 5 should be common sense. Just because somebody tells you to feel at home, don’t just use things. Ask first.
If you ask politely if you could use their shampoo or if they have an extra towel for you to use, I nobody will say no.
Feel at home ,yes, but those things still don’t belong to you. Some people maybe won’t care (if you are lucky) others will care.
In the worst case scenario they will kick you out, if not it still will leave a sour taste.
You just have to ask, that’s all there is or take the things you will need with you in first place.
6. Keep it clean
This one is a real pain. You are a guest, leave things the way they are.
If your host doesn’t care and isn’t tidy, well then it maybe is ok for you not to be either. But if your host has everything cleaned up and tidy, you know that it is very important for them. Which means you should keep it that way.
One of my couchsurfers flooded my bathroom once, and instead of asking for a towel or at least telling me about it, he just left it that way. I noticed when I stepped into a big puddle. He washed his hair in the sink, with my shampoo!!! Now that really pissed me off. I have a small bathroom and it sets on mold fast if I am not careful.
I didn’t say anything because he was leaving, but trust me I don’t want to host him again.
It’s not your flat, you are staying in, the things belong to other people, so treat them with care. How you live at home is not important, the excuse you are a messy person doesn’t count. It is clean when you arrive? You keep it clean!
Easy and simple. And let’s be honest, you leave a much better impression when you clean up your sleeping place, wash the dishes you used
and are careful with the things of your host.
If he/she tells you it’s fine to leave it that way, they will clean it up later, great for you ;). Otherwise I am sure they will appreciate the effort.
7. Don’t suddenly change plans
Don’t ask to stay for one night when you contact your host and suddenly when you arrive tell them it will be two nights. As soon as your plans change tell them and ask if it’s ok for them.
They have a life too, you know?! Maybe they have no time or somebody else will stay with them.
In the worst case scenario you will get kicked out (again). Sure plans change, maybe there is a union strike or another extraordinary reason. If possible they for sure will help you out, IF you ASK them kindly.
Don’t just give them the facts last minute and expect them to just go along with it.
8. Pay back your debts
Maybe I am a bit “German” here, but it is really a pain, when people BORROW some money, for example for the ticket machine or when you are out and there is no atm around, and they don’t pay it back at the end of their stay.
Don’t make your host ask to pay them back, that’s really embarrassing for them and really not fair.
They let you stay with them, show you around and you give them the present of not paying back your debt.
I had that once. He borrowed 5 euro for the ticket machine and we went out in the morning before he left to grab something to eat and I waited and waited.
NOTHING. I mean yes it’s not much money, but I am on a tight budget. So I had to ask him and instead of saying ops he forgot, he told me “That’s so German of you”, before paying me back.
What the HELL!!!
You borrow something, you give it back. If I say I invite you or it’s fine you can keep it, it’s alright. But at least be polite enough to try to pay back your debt and don’t play dumb as if you don’t understand the word borrow.
You don’t know the financial situation of your host and in the end that doesn’t matter either way. An honest person stands to their word and doesn’t force the person that helped out to take action.
9. Don’t make them your Babysitter
They don’t have to show you around, maybe they are busy. They don’t have to bring you to the train station and they don’t have
to pick you up. They also don’t have to wait for your ride to arrive, because you forgot to plan properly.
If you are travelling you should be able to be responsible for yourself. Your host can do those things, to help you out, but they are not obliged too. Again you are a grown up person, who should be able to handle their travels alone.
I tend to pick my couchsurfers up, because it makes the travel easier for them and I think it’s a nice gesture,
because it’s my way of showing them “Hey, I was looking forward to meeting you”
But if I have a busy schedule I expect them to be able to find the way by themselves.
10. When you message, tell your host what you are looking for
This is the last one. It is always great if a couchsurfer tells me what they want to do. Some want to go sightseeing, others need a place to sleep because of work and prefer to meet others while doing so.
By telling your host what you plan to do, they can plan accordingly or tell you if they are going to be busy. So if they do host you, they maybe won’t be able to show you around.
This way both parties know what to expect and nobody will be disappointed or annoyed.
Couchsurfing is all about the experience of meeting new people. It’s an adventure and a chance to make friends all over the world.
If you are going to keep this simple rules in the back of your head I am quite sure you will have a great time.
Just remember Couchsurfing is not just about you, it’s about the other person too.
Now go and have fun surfing =)